Great People + Great Culture = Great Company

I’m often asked, “How is K2 Digital growing so fast?” My answer is always the same: “We hire great people, and we instill a great culture in everything we do.” I strongly believe that great companies are differentiated from good companies when they are made of these two rare and most difficult to duplicate, ingredients. When you have these ingredients in the right measure, you’re continuously becoming greater by retaining the best people.

Does being great versus good even matter though?

Yes! Great companies are nimble, fast, smart, and more adapt to change from learning. They are able to transform, evolve and deliver better solutions for their clients every day. They set marketplace expectations; they don’t simply strive to achieve them. They grow faster, deliver more profit, and frankly, are much more fun to work at for everyone.

So what does it mean to hire great people? At K2 Digital, we focus on five key areas in our process:

  1. Recruitment: Hiring great people starts with recruitment. Your recruitment must understand your business, intricately. You get an unfair advantage when your recruitment team came from other, line function, type roles in the company.
  2. Diversity: Diversity matters. A diverse workforce delivers different ways of thinking, different approaches to not only solving problems, but figuring out what they are; ensuring that your company has a diversity initiative in its hiring models doesn’t mean that you should hire so as to comply with corporate governance or self-regulation in HR, it means that your recruiters have to work harder than they imagine to grow your candidate pool. It means your company has to be interesting to a diverse candidate pool. You need to ensure you are screening a diverse and talented pool set so you end up hiring a diverse group of the best employees.
  3. Candidate Screening: Candidate screening means: Be selective. For every 100 applications we get, we test 10, and end up meeting 1. Before meeting with hiring managers, we request that each of our candidates perform a role specific test or case study. We need to know they have the skills to meet our standards of great, not just good.
  4. Interviewing: Once we know a candidate has great skills,we look for cultural fit. We have identified a set of attributes that we hire for. These attributes help us to separate Good candidates from Great candidates. While the attributes are confidential, I can tell you they are all geared toward how people think, and refer largely to their attitudes.
  5. Hiring: Hire the person…but be true to the probationary period. We treat it like a rite of passage, a gauntlet to get through. Those that make it through are proud to work here, and love working with other really smart and highly driven people.

So what does it mean to retain great people?

Retaining great people is tough. Great people have high expectations. They want to be paid well; but they aren’t driven primarily by money. They want to work with other great people. They want to work on challenging initiatives. They love change, and need to see growth opportunities and room for advancement. . They want to work in a place where risk and entrepreneurism is inherent to the culture; where they are encouraged to aim high, but know that failure is not only tolerated, but accepted. They want to work in a place that celebrates success, but that openly discusses past failures and lessons learned.

Great people want to work in a culture that celebrates camaraderie over mere collaboration. They want to have fun, which really means enjoying the camaraderie they have formed with their colleagues.

They need to buy into the company vision, and know what their role is to help get the team there. And there has to be something in it for them, when the company does succeed. Great people hate hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy, and love a true open doors environment. They demand significant amounts of autonomy coupled with great mentorship.

Great people aim for greatness, they despise mediocrity, are never satisfied with status quo, and no matter how great they do, they still believe they could have done better. They are highly action oriented and would rather try and fail than plan and never do.

So what does it mean to have a great culture?

A great culture is one that is built around the expectations of great people. Too often culture is centered around events, parties, benefits, and employee perks. While nice to have, none of these events or perks actually contribute to building a great culture. Culture drives true loyalty; perks drive employee stickiness. Employee stickiness is great at retaining good employees, but great people aspire to so much more, and can find great opportunities elsewhere.

So, how can business leaders build a great culture?

The idea is simple, but the practice can be incredibly challenging. The answer of course is — Hire the right people. Hire great people. Make sure management lives, breathes and demonstrates support for the same values, and you will inevitably have a great culture that promotes great people who achieve great things.

Great hiring plus great culture is the most wonderful virtuous circle.

Would you like to discuss this in more detail, feel free to contact me at: LTepperman@k2digital.com